HR Support on Screening and Testing

Editor's Note: Preemployment screening can bring great risks but also rewards.

David B. WeisenfeldOverview: Today's hands-off approach can be tomorrow's negligent hiring lawsuit. As a result, many employers turn to a variety of preemployment screening measures to find out ahead of time about any warning signs involving job applicants.

These measures can include employee background checks, reference checks, credit checks, drug tests, job-related aptitude tests and post-offer medical examinations. However, HR professionals should be certain to check their state employment laws as well as federal statutes to ensure that their testing efforts do not overstep.

If an employer decides to engage in any of these testing measures, it must do so across-the-board with all applicants in a consistent fashion. A failure to do so could lead to later discrimination claims.

Trends: Some states prevent employers from asking job applicants about arrests. Others have "Ban the Box" laws that prohibit employers from asking candidates to check off on an initial job application form if they have been convicted of a crime. This does not preclude such questions later in the selection process.

Employers also should be aware that several states limit the use of credit checks to certain positions where financial data, sensitive information or managerial responsibilities will be involved.

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor

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HR Guidance concerning federal and state legal requirements on the screening and testing of job applicants.